Saudi Arabia is in the headlines recently with news surrounding another video games ban by the Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media. The source of the news is NY Times who state that due to the death of a 13-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy, who committed suicide after playing the social media game ‘Blue Whale’, Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media said that it has banned 47 games.
Despite that ‘Blue Whale’ challenge is more of a social media game, there were 47 games listed as being banned including Grand Theft Auto V, Assassins Creed 2 and Witcher. If you look at the list, the names might sound old. Some of the listed games in the list got banned on their launch in their respective year but there is no other ban imposed on any current games just due to this new controversy.
Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, in general, has been a lot more lenient to the release of video games. They are allowing more games now than in the past with even God of War PS4, Far Cry 5 and Witcher 3 making the cut, however, the latter had to go through some changes to be approved for official sale in the Middle East.
Head of Communications at Ubisoft Middle East, Malek Teffaha talked about this recent news on Twitter confirming the earlier speculation that it was mostly a poorly researched news article. Citing the article from Associated Press, he states that there is no proper source listed in the article.
“This article (from @AP) lists no sources whatsoever, correlates banning decisions that are years old, on games that are even older, to recent unrelated events and the ‘Blue Whale’ bandwagon. They didn’t reach out to any publisher or board to clarify.”
“Saudi Arabia and @gcamsa have shown a lot of progress recently in their work with video game publishers and their setting up of the local age rating guidelines and regulations. I truly wish press would shed proper light on this topic and avoid sensationalism,” wrote Malek in a Tweet.
“So no Saudi Arabia hasn’t banned these games after the deaths. They have in fact set up new committees and launched campaigns to help educate people on the threats of cyber bullying and non-adult supervised communication online, especially in regards to children and young teens.”
This sounds like another case of the press misinterpreting a news where the facts weren’t checked properly. The release of more ‘controversial’ games now than in the past is a testament to this news that this is not the case and while it might have been more common in the past, this doesn’t show the present situation.